This might seem to be about World of Warcraft, but it's not, so bear with me. It's worth reading and thinking about the implications.

If you're not familiar with the game "World of Warcraft", it's a massive online world with over 6 million players, divided across many servers. The server I play on (rather sporadically, I might add), is named "Twisting Nether". I'm in a guild named "Disposable Hero" (if you know how much I like Michael Franti and you know his first group, I can assure you that the name is merely a pleasant coincidence).

The guild leader of Disposable Hero is named Kahierden. He's 17 years old, but there's only one other thing I really know about him. More on that in a moment.

Kahierden built Disposable Hero into a friendly, decent sized guild. He helps out other players who are less experienced, he helped us avoid a rather unpleasant guild takeover and is generally a nice guy. I chatted with him about politics, life, and other things and came away thinking "this is a nice guy". In fact, while I don't know him well, it's safe to say that, oddly enough, I think of him as a friend.

There's just one little problem. I really should have written about him in the past tense. Kahierden had a heart murmur and would often be gone in the hospital for days at a time. A few months ago, he went into the hospital and never came out. He knew he was dying and before he went, he gave his brother his username and password so that his brother could log on and transfer control over the guild to another player named Slyniti. He was dying but he wanted to make sure his online friends were taken care of.

After he died, we didn't know what to do. It's not as if we could attend his funeral. We considered him a friend and our guild leader, but we didn't know who he was. In game, we got together and had a moment of silence for him. This is probably one of the most unsettling things I've encountered, but how else do we honor his memory? One can say "it's only a game", but Kahierden was a real person.

This is going to be more and more common. As more people start transferring parts of their lives to online worlds, they're going to be making friends in a way that society isn't used to. Many of us today have real and virtual friends. What do we do when a virtual friend passes away, particularly one who so many people know and like? It would be unfair to say that I felt true grief over his passing, but I'm disturbed by this nonetheless.

I suppose some folks are going to think "get away from the damned computer", but that's like shoveling the ocean back with a fork. Even if I do it, millions of others are not and we'll see and hear more about this all the time. Our world is changing and the future of the Internet is going to continue to change things in ways we can't even imagine.
  • Current Mood: confused confused
I'm sorry for your loss, just don't hold the funeral in a combat zone.

Wow, C... what a challenging situation. Thanks so much for writing about it here. It makes so much sense and I agree that this is something that will only continue to increase in frequency.

I have lots of questions about the "legitimacy" of connections I've felt with online friends who I haven't met IRL. For me, it's means changing my rule book. If I feel it, it's valid on some level and it's ok for me to do/say/process whatever way I need to. What you're talking about, though... with there being a death. What a challenge. I'm not sure what I would do if I were in your shoes. But I'm glad you took a step by sharing it.
Sorry to hear your news, but it was very interesting to read your thoughts.

I was tangentially exposed to this new social phenomenon last September when kielle, founder of the metaquotes com and many others, passed away. I only knew of her through some of the posts on that com that she'd died, and went to look at her journal ... her husband had posted a few entries about her death and the details, and I saw that a few hundred people had replied. I felt as if it would be somewhat invasive to read, so I didn't, but I found myself wondering many of the same things you mention ... essentially, what is appropriate and respectful and honoring in this context? And I agree that it will happen with greater and greater frequency, regardless of whether the context is a blog, an online game, an IRC channel, whatever.

About the only consideration I can contribute is ... I personally feel that whatever memorial is performed, in either a group dynamic or individually, is most fitting when done according to the context of the relationship. Sometimes online we're characters, and sometimes we present ourselves as real, and I think that that distinction should play a vital role in however we pay our respects. Seems more appropriate to me, somehow, to send off the battle-scarred corpse of Valdir, Slayer of the Winged Menace, in a canoe across the Sea of Many Moons, in a solemn ceremony online in the company of the other members of his campaign, than to chat in an online pub about Henry Johnson who lived in Milwaukee who played the character. We know it was the man who died, but honoring him by honoring his online persona seems to me to make the most sense.
What to do about death is always a difficult question. I happen to have read the Wikipedia article on Facebook yesterday; they mentioned that originally the Facebook admins would delete accounts of dead users as soon as they learned about them, but then people started leaving comments on them as a sort of condolences book, so now they leave those accounts online for a while.

You pretty much have to hope that the administrators are sensitive to their users' feelings. (Of course, Blizzard doesn't seem to have a great track record there...)
good evening. i just thought i'd let you know that i added you. we had what was from my perspective a very interesting chat at the Wake on Saturday night/Sunday morning, so. i look forward to reading your LJ. i just hope i have more time for that sort of thing soon...
Hi there. It was great meeting you the other night. Glad to know my drunken rambling wasn't too annoying. I enjoyed the conversation. Politics/economics and philosophy always catch my interest, but it bores the hell out of most folks, so I sometimes remember to bite my tongue. Glad you didn't mind. It'd be nice to discuss stuff where we don't have to yell ourselves hoarse.
That is one of the things that has crossed my mind. Some of my best friends are cyber-LJ friends. If something every happens to me When I die, how will they know? Who will tell them? And how?

I certainly don't want my friends to think I suddenly decided to stop talking to them.


BTW, I hope you don't mind, but I added you to my reading list (otherwise known as the Friends List). If you want me to butt out of your journal, please just say the word.

Also, fair warning: You probably won't want to add me to your reading list because I post a lot of junk - and frequently. So even if you do allow me to stay, please do not feel obliged to "friend" me back.
I don't mind at all. Thanks for letting me know. Fair warning: I noticed you describe yourself as a conservative in your journal. In my home state of Texas, I'm what's known as a 'god-damned liberal', so some of my rants might get under your skin :)
I don't know, C. Might want to watch out for this one. She seems kind of...wacko :)

(BTW - I'm kidding. GS is a dear friend of mine, and I recently posted pics of the two of us together)
I'm so sorry for your loss. And to his family as well. What a awful thing to have happen to someone so very young.

One of my closest friends in warcraft passed away in January after she was killed by a drunk driver. It was devistating to say the least. While I never got the honor of meeting her out in the "real world", she was my friend and she touched me deeply. I learned a lot from her. I truly did.

I have a tight circle of people who I consider friends that I play with regularly. We are spread out all over the map (Even as far as New Zealand) and none of us have ever met, but it doesn't make them any less real or important to my life. Community is where you can find it. Those who discount just don't get it and unfortunately, they probably never will.

To each their own, I say.

Those of us who were close to her decided to hold a small, informal gathering in game at a little pub. We created a channel just for those who knew her, so that anyone who couldn't be *at* the gathering itself could listen in on and add something if they wanted.

I think it gave me a piece of the closure I desperately needed at the time. We got to remember the good times and even in the midst of many tears, we managed to laugh a little. Which she would have loved.

Peace be with you and everyone who is hurting from his loss.
I actually got roped into playing WOW me self!:) Good for people like me who are alone a lot. MY guild (yes i am guild master) Is "Conclave of the Phoenix" On the Cenarian Circle server.

I haven't lost folks in game but i am the one who dissappears and scares people.I have how ever lost several very close "virtual" friends online.I knew their friends or family in r/l even though i met some on the net. I still miss them.

I think it's just a sign of the times. Just like instead of old love letters we now have stacks of compiled disks of music an movies from ex b/f's and g/f's. I was laughing on my way home thinking of a time when i still didn't use cell phones much ( as in two years ago)And now if i turn my cell off or don't answer it my friends think i am a shut out and rude! The truth being i just don't like spending a lot of time with my face smashed into the phone or i am down stairs and it's upstairs.

I always smirk at movies when they tell you to turn your cell off, or i hear about high school kids complaining about cell phone rules in school and how their parents are just Nazi's because they won't pay for the full plan and limit their internet with net nannies and timers.

It's become a very interesting world of knowledge and techno-romance. Some times i still try to fight it other times i am too transfixed. I feel like a brand new kid who just thinks of questions and can turn to the net to find any scrap of info i want.

I also see what it does to older generations who have no real want to become net addicts. I know my own grandmother would be so transfixed if she could just learn how to get on and off and take care of a pc, her whole life is still letters and phone calls. She gripes often about how her kids and her grand kids talk about emaail and how they really don't write letters any more. It's funny emails from old friends are in my hope chest rather then actual letters. It's not in their handwritting i don't think i have ever even seem them write before!

Yep it's a weird world we are in now!And wouldn't you know it my mouse won't highlight so i can't spell check this thing accurately.... BAH!
I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Losing a friend sucks, in any context. I tend to think the most important part of a memorial is making some kind of meaning for the survivors; since you all know each other via the game, it makes sense for the meaning to come through the game as well.

This spring, we had a memorial for a friend who had died 800 miles away. There were attenders from his faith community, from the theoretical physics lab where he worked, and from various clubs he took part in. It was sad but a bit magical to see a much broader picture of John's life as we shared memories; none of us knew more than two sides of this very multi-sided and complicated man.

It's a somewhat fractured existance we lead, and this is something I've thought about before, as well... No real answers, yet.

I hope your friend's brother was able to take part in the memorial, as weird as that must've been for him too.
I can relate
about 5 years ago played a online game caleld Achaea
it was my life
A friend of mine on their died in real life. I found out through some of her other real life friends who I communicate with. Its a wierd thing that I had no clue how to react to.
I Understand
I Understand

There has been allotting of articles posted about this new type of social interaction especially with the development of second life. There are now people who base there whole life in this game only stopping to sleep and eat.

This new social connection people are getting is very very real and cannot be ignored.

I was thinking about you last night while listening to a Perl cast and magically your name was mentioned imagine that
I picked this up off of brentdax and I must say that it's a sentiment I can express myself. All of our guildies, or most of them, filter in from a shared message board that's unrelated to WoW but even our in-game invites are special people to us.

There are personal problems that go on with people in our guild and yet we still come through and help them out IRL because that's what you do - they are game characters but they are people you chat with day in and day out. I spend more time talking to my guildies than most people. It's a time taken with them and it's emotions shared that make it more than just a game.

I like this entry and I'm passing it on.
A while ago, on a MUD I used to play, someone died IRL. There was the reaction you might expect — people making tributes, et cetera. Some doubted, said it was a hoax. Friends of the fallen defended her.

...the doubters turned out to be right.

It left a bad feeling in a lot of people. And was one of the reasons why the creators there have always refused to make any kind of "memorial area" for MUDders' characters whent the MUDders have died IRL.
I'm sorry for the death of your friend. Online friends to me are just as important as the ones I've made outside of the 'net.

Five years ago, almost to this day, a group of friends I regularly chatted with realized that we hadn't seen a friend of ours for a while. Almost a week, even. With this weighing on our minds, we tried to remember if she had said she would be going anywhere. We couldn't remember, but one person who said she knew her phone number said she'd give her a call.

She logged on the next day to give us the news: our friend had been in the WTC...and hadn't made it back out.

We all got hit pretty hard with the realization that we could disappear and nobody would know what happened to us. That's why I've made sure to save all my passwords so that if somebody starts up my computer, they can log in and leave a message for everybody. It's the least I can do.
That's not very secure, IMHO. Anyone can get into your stuff now, while you're alive. And that's not pretty.

It would be better to maintain a "contingency file", as I do, with all my important documents. It has specific instructions on what my executor needs to do in the event of my timely or untimely demise.

The instructions include my Livejournal username(s, I attempt to maintain an art journal) and password, along with a short note from me, post-humously, as it were. Also, both my WoW accounts, their passwords, and which characters on them I actually am on enough that people might want to be made aware (as well as whom to transfer guild control of my guild to in the event I'm gone). AIM accounts and a small handful of specific people to message or email personally (mostly people whom I roleplay with on a regular basis who, for various reasons, wouldn't find out any other way). After that, I assume the internets will disseminate the information as it sees fit.

There are also instructions for cancelling or maintaining (at the option of my executor or one of three specified people) my website, WoW accounts, etc.

As our lives become increasingly digital, it behooves us all to take care of the end of our lives online as well as in meatspace. Think of it as your Last Will and Testament... for your online stuff.
I'm not entirely sure how putting everything into one file is much different from just saving all the information. Anybody who would like to maliciously hack your computer by sitting at it (unlikely in my case in the first place, I believe) could still do so. Unless, of course, they need a password into your system, in which case anybody trying to get into your computer would be stumped - unless you have it easily lying around for somebody to find.

Did that make sense? Sorry, it's still early for me.

I have this information like I have my will-- on that old-fashioned thing called "paper". My will and online contingency file, along with important things like my birth certificate, passport, certified copy of my divorce, etc. etc. etc... all nicely organized and in a fire-proof, waterproof lockbox in my closet. The lockbox has two keys-- one that's on me at all times, and the second is with my mother, who lives two states away.

In the event I die, she knows that all my important paperwork is kept there.

Planning for the future is important. Most people don't think about it because they'd rather not. And young people don't think about it because they think they're immortal.

Even if I turn out to be immortal, i'd rather be safe than sorry.
Reminds me a lot of this post on WoW Insider:

They had a funeral for a prominent Horde player at the cathedral in Stormwind. It was pretty impressive.

I'm sorry for your loss. I've had a friend online from a MUD pass away, and it's a very weird thing at first, because it's hard to know exactly how to cope. I've also had friends that I lost touch with and I wonder if they're okay and such sometimes.
First off, Just so that you know.
This is Jerry, I made an account so that I could keep up with you easily.

As far as the Techno-lust we all know, love, share and what-not.
I believe that it's not a sign of the times, it's not Gotterdammerung coming to peak. I feel that it's just an evolution, of our social standards and capacity.

I've been playing WoW for almost.. Two years now, and I have very strong emotional connections to many of the friends I play with. Not because I'm trolling the servers, looking for a date but, because I am looking for friends. Running about all day, with no one to talk to gets repetitive and annoying. I could really care less what my friends look like. So long as they have idea's all their own, I don't match faces with names anymore.
I have reached a position, which I only associate with about five people outside of WoW and my workplace.

I honestly hate dealing with most people. Not because of any typical stereotypes, but because most of them are nothing more than heaps of emotional garbage. All recycling these broken thoughts and feelings that have been handed down to them by large grizzly men with beards.

So, in my opinion, I don't think there was anything wrong with feeling grief for the loss. We just lost someone who could have been a grand member of society! We need more people who care about those around them. If you look around at the people here in San Antonio, they all hate each other and could care less. Some one gets shot, they run the opposite direction as fast as they can.
Hi Jerry.

Sorry I've been such a rotten uncle. I've never been terribly good at keeping in touch with family (duh). Hope you're doing well. Tell Gayle and Steph I said 'hi'!